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A review of South African bus lines

October 22, 2012

We had our Mid-Service training earlier this month, and it was great to get back in the city and see all the people who came with me on the plane a year ago. Thanks to the internet access we had at the backpackers, I somehow managed to wreck my operating system. For you, that means no more photos until I get it fixed.

But you already know what a bus looks like, right? Bosman station, my hub for going between Pretoria and Limpopo, has a lot of them. The ticket offices are lined up in a tidy little row, with beggars hovering around them looking for Americans to pester. Here I review the bus lines I have and haven’t used, to memory.

  • City to City is the line I use most often for traveling between cities. It’s the best choice for me because, oddly enough, none of the other major lines serve Limpopo at all. So I’m lucky that even though there’s no competition, it’s still a good line. I don’t want to say it’s luxurious, but it’s solid. With nice cushioned seats that are four to a row instead of five, curtains that a usually clean, and a TV that plays pedi or tsonga music videos on a loop, there’s not that much to complain about. It’s usually cheaper than a taxi, too.

    City to City has a sister line called Translux, which does the same job for half again the price. As far as I can tell, the only difference is the seats are bigger and the clientele is whiter. As an artifact of apartheid, the ladies at the ticket office will sometimes assume I want to ride Translux. Even if I weren’t living on a PCV’s budget, City to City does the job for me.

  • Greyhound is one that I’ve never ridden. I’ve heard mixed things, and it’s possible that some reviewers may be conflating it with the American Greyhound. All I can say is that the staff was helpful in answering my questions. (“Do you go where I want to go?” “No.”)
  • SA Roadlink is affectionately(?) called SA Deathlink by volunteers. I’ve only used it once, and that’s more than enough. They’re designed for cargo, transporting a group of mannequins, maybe, but not for people. The rows seat five, which is too crowded to really work, so Deathlink’s twisted engineers came up with a solution: stagger the middle seat back a little so the person sitting there and the person sitting next to them can overlap. That’s where I had to sit, of course. The icing on the cake was when the guy in front of me reclined his seat into my face. Short review: taxis are safer and more comfortable, and that’s saying something.
  • Intercape is one I’ve never used because I don’t have business in the cape, but plenty of volunteers do. Their buses are clean and shiny and large, sometimes with a second deck. If the roads of South Africa were colonial era Caribbean seas, then Intercape buses would be the Spanish galleons. It’s a Christian company, which means that every voyage begins with an official prayer (as opposed to a frantic prayer from one of the passengers, I guess) and they play religious movies during the trip.
  • Phadziri and Sons does not seem like a big company, but I’m including it because they run a small office in Bosman, even though it never seems to have any business. Seeing this bus line makes me think that businesses catering to a black customer base will work to cultivate an image of being dirt cheap and barely functional, in order to attract those without much money. The inside of their office smells worse of urine than the outside, and the cheap metal chairs have had their covers stripped off, exposing the foam underneath. I once rode one of their buses accidentally on a local trip. It was just like the bus I use to reach my village, which is to say, the bare minimum. Using a bus like this on a long journey qualifies as rock bottom.

That’s all I can remember. There are also smaller companies that are in league with each other, but they don’t have offices, and they instead hustle their customers off the streets. They’re not bad, but I can more reliably find a City to City bus for the same price.

One Comment
  1. Mareleigh Piek permalink

    Hi my name is Mareleigh I’m stressing out I’m getting on greyhound bus 7ho today and don’t know what to expect with all the mixed reviews let’s hope all goes well

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